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Jamaican CEO ‘Speak’ - November 03,2007
How do you feel when you listen to your CEO speak? Do you cringe if he obliviously massacres the language, adding flair and adventure to the pronunciation of mundane words like ‘and’ and ‘have’? Through his communication with staff and the external stakeholders, does he enhance the organization’s value, making you feel that another back-breaking day turning the wheels of production was worthwhile? Or, does he lie blatantly giving you cause to frantically send out job applications to companies outside whose gates you would never even dream of being seen, much less being employed inside?

‘Invisible Man’
And to you, Mr. CEO, as you jump out of your ‘criss’ car in the mornings do you saunter haughtily pass your staff with nary a good morning greeting on your way to your office? Do you speak truthfully to your staff as far as is possible without breaking business confidences or making wild promises knowing full well that they will never materialize this side of the month on their paychecks? Are you one of those executives who often pass off speaking with your staff, to one of your most hated minions – who will deliver any message, allowing you to again retain the undisputed title of ‘Mr. Nice Guy’? Are you the ‘Invisible Man’? Or, do you walk the line of ‘respect due’ and create the space for meaningful and effective communication?

Of course in writing this I am always mindful of the Jamaican saying ‘come see me and come live wid me are two different things” but there are a few Jamaican CEOs who have established themselves as true performers and effective communicators at least from the outside. So I deliberately hesitate to call names in this piece but if any of my readers feel that they are up for a raise (smile) they can e-mail me their CEO’s name if they think he/she has passed the effective communicator’s test.

Senior executives, especially the CEO, provide leadership to align the organization with its vision. They set the direction, and their behavior determines the tone and culture—how the
vision will be achieved.

Whichever way you look at it CEO speak is not nearly as easy as the pay, despite all the perks. I am sure there are many executives would cut off their right ear rather than have to speak daily or even once a month with their employees, the media and other stakeholders. And likewise I am sure some employees and others who would rather speedily dispense with both ears rather than listen to said CEO. But like it or not, effective CEO communication is one of those value-added, which when it is non-existent or barely there, impact on the returns on investments in the business.

Some of the issues that staff and stakeholders want CEO to speak effectively about include: the organization’s overall corporate strategy; financial results (they should tread carefully here and not try to confuse the issues and numbers;) major changes coming (redundancies, mergers, acquisitions); feedback from the Board of Directors; responses to media attention and other major stakeholders’ issues.

Credible and Authentic
In communicating these issues it more than helps if the CEO is an effective communicator, not your garden variety ‘oily mouth’ type who makes wild promises, but one who is personable who is on good speaking terms with the English Language and who is credible and authentic. This is sometimes a tall order because as we well know, many of our executives rise to their positions not because they are brilliant communicators, but because they might be great professional performers; they might be the boss’s son or daughter; they might have out-maneuvered and out-lived their competition and the and truth be told, some just know where are the bodies are buried in the corporate graveyard.
So often they do not come to the table with the requisite communications skills that will take them and their organizations to the next level of performance and many believe that communications is a ‘soft’ skill which they do not need nor are prepared to equip themselves or their management team with these necessary skills.
Drop me a line if you think your CEO has the ‘it’ factor. I promise not to reveal the sender’s name, unless this is stated. It will be interesting to see how our Jamaican CEOs stack up in the area of effective communication.

E-mail Feedback:
From Angella Snickas:( International Communications Measurement Guru)
“Yvonne, great article on "Hi-tech solutions for Jamaican communicators." I especially liked the part about "comatose or camera-shy CEOs/executives who have no idea that their staff members need to hear from them." We have way too many of them in the U.S. as well.
And thanks for mentioning my name!


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